Prisoner of the Devil
Magnum, London, 1982
In all humility and with the greatest respect I dedicate this story to the memory of
The blurb on the back:
It was a case that Holmes had refused, despite desperate pleas, nothing would compel him to take it on. Nothing...except the personal command of his Queen. Victoria's request sends the great detective on a perilous mission to Devil's Island. There he meets his client, the disgraced officer and convicted spy Alfred Dreyfuss, and is hurled into the most enthralling case of his career.
'In a different class from other 'newly discovered' Sherlock Holmes stories.' - Dame Jean Conan Doyle
The first Sherlock books I ever had were the Short Stories and the Long Stories collections, but the next one was The Sherlock Holmes Companion by Michael & Mollie Hardwick. So I have a great fondness for Mr Hardwick - he introduced me to the concept of pseudo-biographies and the rest, which has helped fuel my enthusiasm for Holmes ever since.
This book, however, somewhat tries my affection. It's not badly written by any means, and the idea of Holmes looking into the miscarriage of justice in the Dreyfuss case is a sharp piece of inspiration, but it's a bit bloody ponderous. Watson starts off by warning us that, while other stories he's told us may have been infused with 'colour' and 'wit', we're to expect nothing of the kind here; this is 'a grim account of treachery, cupidity, repression and shame'.
So it proves to be. We get Lestrade and Mycroft and Mrs Hudson, but we don't get any jokes. And 300 pages of a Holmes story without humour is pushing it somewhat.
Well-intentioned but wrong.